March 25, 2024

Boosting Employee Performance: The Critical Role of Mental Health in the Workplace

By Simone Putnam, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Partner-in-Charge, Managed Human Resources Services

Boosting Employee Performance: The Critical Role of Mental Health in the Workplace Managed Human Resources Services

Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and chronic or acute stress have a direct impact on an employee’s ability to perform at their best. Despite its prevalence, mental health is often shrouded in stigma, which can prevent employees from seeking the support they need. Research indicates that mental health issues are among the leading causes of absenteeism and reduced productivity. Furthermore, the consequences extend beyond individual employees, affecting team morale and the organization’s success.

Mental health comprises various components, each contributing to an individual’s overall psychological well-being. These components include:

  1. Emotional Well-being – the ability to manage and express emotions effectively, cope with stress, and remain resilient in the face of life’s challenges. It includes experiencing positive emotions like contentment and the capacity for self-compassion and forgiveness.
  2. Psychological Well-being – the state of an individual’s cognitive and emotional functioning. It includes self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life, autonomy, and the ability to establish meaningful relationships.
  3. Social Well-being – the ability to connect with others, establish strong relationships, and contribute to the community.
  4. Cognitive Well-being – how well an individual thinks about and perceives the world. It involves clear thinking, the ability to learn new skills, and maintaining concentration and memory.
  5. Spiritual Well-being – a sense of meaning or connection to something greater than oneself. This can include religious beliefs, a sense of purpose, and feelings aligned with one’s values.
  6. Financial Well-being – the ability to have financial security and feel in control of one’s financial situation.
  7. Physical Well-being – physical health is deeply interconnected with mental health. This includes regular physical activity, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and management of medical conditions.

Employers have a unique opportunity to make a positive impact on their employees’ mental health by implementing mental health initiatives such as:

  1. Awareness and Education – providing access to training sessions or workshops to educate employees about mental health can help normalize conversations and reduce stigma.
  2. Access to Resources – providing access to mental health resources such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), counseling services, and online tools – helps ensure employees have the support they need.
  3. Supportive Culture – promote an open, inclusive, and non-stigmatizing atmosphere where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health issues.
  4. Work-Life Balance – implement policies such as paid leave, flexible (core) work hours, hybrid work location, etc., to allow employees to balance personal time off while meeting the obligations of their work roles and responsibilities.
  5. Encourage Physical Health – promote physical health as part of mental health by providing wellness programs, incorporating workplace competitions/challenges for physical fitness, healthy snacks, etc.
  6. Promote Mindfulness and Stress Reduction – offer programs or workshops or stress reduction techniques, meditation, or mindfulness.
  7. Lead by Example – senior leaders should model healthy behaviors and prioritize their mental health to set an example for the rest of the organization.
  8. Monitor Workloads – ensure that employees are not consistently overburdened with work, which can lead to stress and burnout.

Technology has vastly improved access to tools for mental health support, from apps that promote mindfulness and stress management to platforms that provide online workouts and therapy sessions. Technology is making mental health support more accessible and less intimidating for employees.

While the ultimate responsibility for mental health resides with individual employees, by taking a proactive approach to employee mental health, employers not only help their employees but also contribute to a more productive, engaged, and loyal workforce.